Understanding Yorkshire Dialect

June 14, 2013 at 9:03 am , by Blue


If you happen to be visiting Leeds, or any other corner of Yorkshire, one of the first things that you may notice when you step out onto the street is of course the accent and the dialect of the local area.

Throughout the past fifty or so years, the Yorkshire accent has been celebrated in television and  its advertisements. One of the many reasons that the accent is so well loved, is that it is often used throughout the media industry to highlight a sense of care and trust.

Tetley Tea and Hovis for example, often utilise the Yorkshire accent for their advertisements both on television and the radio; not to mention the fact that The Last of the Summer Wine enjoyed forty years in the county.

If you were to hear this accent however, without ever visiting the county, you would be forgiven for thinking that throughout Yorkshire, there is only one unified accent.

The truth is however, that throughout the beautiful county, there is a vast and rich variation of the primary accent.

For example, in Sheffield, people tend to overuse the letter ‘d’ in their words. To add to this, it is also common for people to ‘bend’ certain words. So for example, the word ‘there’ would be transformed into ‘deer’.

If however, you were to travel just 15 or so miles up the road to Barnsley, this word would be ever so slightly changed to ‘thier’.

Though these individual accents only occasionally find themselves in Leeds, they join a great culmination of Yorkshire accents that can be found within the city.

With the local evolution of these words in mind, what other words can you expect to be particularly changed?

Nothing

Though comprised of only two syllables, the average Yorkshire man throughout time, has managed to condense the word further, producing the affiliated ‘nowt’ (not to be confused with now, which sounds a little more like ‘nah’).

Friend

A noun that has many meanings (depending on who it is you are talking to), it is true that in Yorkshire that the meaning can also have many words.

From ‘mate’ through to ‘love’, do not be offended either, if someone was to call you ‘cock’, as in Yorkshire, you may be surprised to know that it is meant as a term of endearment; possibly originating from the farmyard animal.

Right

Another word which you may find a surprising change, is the word ‘right’, which is often distorted to ‘reight’, and can either be used as the direction or the confirmation of what is presumed to be good.

Alleyway

With a little bit of history about it, the word ‘alleyway’ you may find totally changed, as it is often pronounced as ‘ginnel’, though this is a deviation of the Danish word, ‘gyde’ from which many Yorkshire people can source their ancestry.

Other words such as grass (pronounced ‘gress’ in Yorkshire and ‘græs’ in Danish), can also be traced back to their foreign roots.

Are there any misconceptions about the Yorkshire accent?

Although George Orwell probably got it right when he wrote that Yorkshire people often forgot their h’s, one of the most common misconceptions is the idea that people in Yorkshire generally add t’s where otherwise, there would be no need.

This however, is refuted by many, as much of the time, the purpose of ‘speaking Yorkshire’ is to hasten and simplify the English language, rather than extend and complicate it.

Though many Southerners may find the intricate rules of Yorkshire language somewhat confusing or redundant, it is important to understand that it is so, mostly thanks to the Harrying of the North by William the Conqueror.

As the Norman Conquest took over Britain after 1066, the South of England was treated to a new wave of culture and wealth, whereas much of the North of England was subject to genocide by the new king, who feared their rebellion.

Due to this, much of the eloquence of the French remained exactly where it was, whereas what was left of the North of England merely vegetated in its Danish and Anglo-Saxon heritage; giving start to what we know now as the North-South divide.

Think you know enough about Yorkshire? Take a look at the second half of this blog to see if you truly understand the Yorkshire accent.

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